The Government is acutely aware of the impact the recent increases in energy prices are having on households. This is a global phenomenon. Expert commentators, including the International Energy Agency, have attributed it to a range of demand and supply factors that have contributed to a tightening of the European gas market supplies and the upward trend in wholesale gas prices we have witnessed since mid-2020. The best long-term approach for Ireland to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets is to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, to expand interconnection with our European and neighbouring markets and to deepen internal electricity market integration.
The Government's immediate response to address the increase in domestic energy prices has been to utilise the tax and social welfare system to counter rising costs of living. Budget 2022 increased the weekly rate of the fuel allowance such that €914 will be paid to eligible households over the course of the winter. Increases to the qualified child payment, the living alone allowance and the income threshold for the working family payment were also announced.
Consumers should continue to switch or to engage with their energy supplier. Many households could still save on their bills if they did so. As recently as 9 December, switching supplier could save a customer consuming the average amount of electricity up to €313.
The CRU has in place a suite of protections against disconnection that are set out in the supplier handbook. In brief, priority customers cannot be disconnected, while vulnerable customers are protected over the winter months, from 1 November to 31 March each year, and a CRU moratorium on disconnections for all customers comes into effect over the Christmas period.
In addition, under the supplier-led voluntary energy engage code, a supplier will not at any time disconnect a customer who is engaging with them. Furthermore, due to the ongoing pressure on households, the Government agreed today to provide a once-off credit of €100 to every domestic electricity account holder through their electricity supplier in the first quarter of 2022.